PITTSFORD, N.Y. - Ikemefuna Enemkpali apologized for the actions that led to his swift release from the Jets on Tuesday after he punched quarterback Geno Smith in the jaw during an argument in the locker room. Enemkpali, who was claimed on waivers Wednesday by the Bills and former Jets coach Rex Ryan, did not mention Smith by name in his apology, however.
"I want to apologize to the Jets' organization, the fans, teammates and the coaches," Enemkpali said Thursday afternoon at the Bills' training camp facility. "I apologize for what happened. It should have never happened. I should have walked away from the situation. It was never my intention to hurt anybody."
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"I'm just very grateful for Rex Ryan and the Buffalo Bills' organization for giving me an opportunity to further my career here in 2015," Enemkpali said. "I'm very grateful and thankful and happy to be a Bill. I look forward to being a good teammate, an accountable player and accountable teammate to this organization. I'm just happy to be here, and thank you."
Enemkpali told a Newsday reporter that he would not answer any questions. He could play Friday night when the Bills host the Panthers in their preseason opener.
The NFL said Tuesday it will investigate the incident, although Enemkpali will be allowed to remain with the team until further notice.
League spokesman Brian McCarthy told Newsday on Thursday that the NFL's policy regarding players who are involved in violent acts stipulates that players may be placed on paid administrative leave "if you are formally charged or an investigation leads the commissioner to believe that the player may have violated this policy. That hasn't been determined at this time."
The Jets released Enemkpali shortly after he punched Smith Tuesday morning as a result of an ongoing dispute between the two. A source told Newsday on Tuesday that they were arguing over a $600 plane ticket that Enemkpali had purchased for Smith to attend Enemkpali's football camp in Texas.
When a friend of his family died, Smith didn't make the trip. He said he would reimburse the money but Enemkpali became frustrated when Smith didn't pay him, and they had a heated exchange that led to the punch.
According to a report on SI.com Thursday, Bills coaches were told that "Smith was mouthing off about the debt in the locker room, and Enemkpali told Smith to come over and say it to his face. Smith did, and put his finger in Enemkpali's face, at which point Enemkpali slugged him."
The Bills are listing the second-year player as a defensive end. For the Jets, the sixth-round pick out of Louisiana Tech played mostly special teams and occasionally at linebacker.
He was involved in an off-campus incident in 2011, when he was arrested and charged with disturbing the peace and battery of a police officer. He was suspended from the team and received probation on a charge of simple battery before being reinstated to the football roster.
Enemkpali played six games for the 2014 Jets and had three tackles and two passes defensed.
On Wednesday, shortly after the Bills claimed Enemkpali, Ryan said he was willing to give him another chance.
"Obviously, it was a terrible thing that happened," Ryan said. "IK made a mistake and there is no question about that. We had IK [with the Jets] last year. A lot of us were around IK and he was a good teammate, simple as that. His background, I know he had an issue, but he was a former captain. The big thing about this is if we didn't think this young man or anybody else would be successful on the football field, in our locker room and in our community, he would not be here."
General manager Doug Whaley said the Bills were aware of Enemkpali's arrest at Louisiana Tech but trusted Ryan's evaluation of the player when deciding to claim him.
"We knew about everything in the college days, and when Rex brought up claiming him, I deferred to him," Whaley said. "He said this is a good kid, we appreciate what he did for us and we are going to judge him for how he dealt with us."
Whaley said he has been in contact with the NFL about potential disciplinary measures for Enemkpali and added, "We will just see how that process unfolds."